The best of school, the worst of school

For the next two weeks, I'm participating in the DonorsChoose Blogger Challenge. See the end of this post for details!

I know, I KNOW, I missed yesterday. My work got out of control. Also a lemur attacked me. Just like that! On the streets of Park Slope! Who knew there were lemurs lurking in the trees? Or even just that one?

Lemurs, by the way, go for the face.

Today, as penance, I will cover sixth AND seventh grade. Which is just as well. Because Seventh Grade Me makes me sad, and I wouldn't want to leave her alone in a post all by herself.

First up: sixth grade.

sixth

Many teeth removed! Retainer in! Braces: coming up! Oh, mouth.

Sixth grade was my best year ever. My teacher was Mr. Reilly. I loved him. LOVED. He was kind, he was smart, he encouraged me to write and I wrote all the time. I have boxes of writing from that year. Weird-ass stories about death and drunk people (and sometimes people drinking themselves to death), and he never once asked me to rein it in.

Mr. Reilly made one mistake, which was to let me pursue independent study. (Sound familiar?) In an effort to encourage me in both art and writing, he had me embark on an ambitious project wherein I would create an animated short about a wacky character who, I don't know, did things. Fell a lot. I don't remember what the short was going to be about. Because I DIDN'T DO IT.

I don't really know how I would have done it, as I had no idea how to animate, but somehow I conned Mr. Reilly into thinking I had it all under control. He sent me to the library every day to continue my Secret Project. This might have only gone on for a few weeks but in my mind it was the whole year. After checking out some initial drawings and the basic storyline, he left me alone. Left alone, I opted to 1) read books, and 2) read more books.

When he discovered what happened, he didn't penalize me. I think he realized it was his mistake, and also I probably got more out of all the books I read than anything I could have created.

Mr. Reilly showed me that I was a writer. He will always have a special place in my heart.

And then I went to seventh grade, where my heart shriveled and died! (Only for a while.) (My heart came back to life.) (I have a zombie heart, is what I'm trying to tell you.)

Before I show you my class photo, which I guarantee you is one of the saddest sights you will ever see in your life, let me tell you a little bit about this year.

In sixth grade, I was among the oldest group of kids in a relatively small school. In seventh grade, I was at the bottom rung at a junior/senior high school that combined the school population from two different towns, so even my own grade was filled with strangers. The school I attended went from 7th grade to 12th. This covers a wide range of ages. My first day on the bus to the high school, I sat next to a guy who had a beard. He told me a story about shooting at a dog who had been rooting through his trash.

This was not a public bus, mind you. He was a fellow student. A bearded fellow student. Whose car had broken down so he was forced to take the bus. Where he claimed he owned a gun. If he was to be believed, which he probably was not, but I didn't know that, because I was fucking TWELVE.

My first day at the giant school of terror did not get any easier. Oh: my grandfather had suffered a massive heart attack the night before my first day of school. So my parents were preoccupied, and we were all sleep-deprived. And then I made a bearded friend.

We had lockers, at this school, and somehow I was overlooked when they were distributing those, so I carried around all my books on the first day. Period after period, I accrued more and more books, challenging my balancing skills well past their limits. This didn't sit well with the general school population. The next day I asked my mom for a bag, and she handed me a paper bag. I can only assume she didn't understand the request, because guess what happens when you carry a shit-ton of books in a paper bag? The bottom of my bag falling out in the hall did not make me look any cooler than the day before.

Nothing got easier in the following days and months, even after I was given a locker. I was frequently accosted by my peers who were trying to be "nice" and offer advice on how I could make my face less weird. Then there were other girls who suddenly, out of nowhere, wanted to beat me up. I don't know when they passed out the memo that seventh grade was the grade for Girl Fights, but everyone else seemed to know it. Or my face just filled with them with fury and the need to yank some hair.

(I never did get beaten up. I always talked my way out of it. The closest I got to brutality was a group of girls ganging up on me out in front of the school, grabbing my LeSportSac and mocking its contents. I had a stupid brand of light-blue eyeliner, which they smeared against the brick wall. Also: a Snoopy pencil case, which they regarded with derision, and then returned to me.)

Okay, so here's the face you get when you combine all of these things.

seventh

I look like I had just come off a three-day crying jag. I probably had.

Seriously, school photographer? Could you have tried a little bit, even a little, to help me out? Maybe encourage me to pull my shoulders back? Coax the merest hint of a smile? I look like I've just been pulled from airplane wreckage.

As hard as this picture is to look at, at least I have an accurate record of my emotional state that year. Is it any surprise this is the year my anxiety disorder showed itself? I just want to wrap this kid up in a blanket and get her out of there.

Share your true tales of awkwardness and beat-uppery. I'll be over here, drunk-dialing my therapist.

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